chapter  101
ByToby E. Huff
Pages 52

Those who have read broadly in Max Weber’s voluminous writings and understood his larger purpose have grasped the fact that he worked on a canvas much larger than the issue of “the Protestant ethic and the spirit of capitalism.” 1 It is true, of course, that it was precisely to test certain implications of the relationship between economic ethics and religious orientations that Weber moved into comparative cross-cultural, historical, and civilizational frames of reference. By moving in that direction, Weber sought to establish whether or not there were any other world religions like Christianity, which had given birth to such unrelenting pursuit of economic rationalism which was linked to the rise of modern capitalism in the West. However, in moving to this enlarged conception of his problematic, Weber came to see his problem as one which had to account for the general emergence of Western rationalism as a whole. In that broader conception, Weber postulated that the West had not only been unique in generating modern capitalism, but also modern science, and a host of related cultural phenomena, such as modern bureaucracy, the Western legal system, and a wide range of peculiarly rationalized cultural forms in art, architecture, and music. In this connection, Weber’s monograph translated as The Social and Rational Foundations of Music 2 merits special attention. For as Wolfgang Schluchter notes below, Weber’s realization that art and music, too, were highly influenced by scientific and technological principles, was for him a major breakthrough. This realization that so-called “nonrational” forms of cultural creativity had been shaped by the Western forces of rationalism forced him to recognize that all forms of cultural development in the West, not just economic, are under the grip of Western rationalism. In the scholarly literature this tortured term, rationalism, remains controversial and I shall have something more to say about it later. For now I would simple say that Weber uses the term 2“rationalism” to include a variety of mental operations that serve to make symbolic systems as well as human action more systematic, logically ordered, and methodically controlled.